Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Mel D. Coleman

Committee Member

Victoriano Lopez

Committee Member

Kimberly Durham


charter schools, English language learners, literacy, phenomenon, qualitative research, teachers


Teachers’ Experiences in a Charter School With English Language Learners’ Acquisition of Academic Literacy. Estella Stephens, 2018: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler College of Education. Keywords: charter schools, English language learners, literacy, phenomenon, qualitative research, teachers.

This qualitative applied dissertation was designed to investigate and give voice to the lived experiences of mainstream teachers at charter schools where the English language learner (ELL) population increased significantly. It replicated McCoy’s (2013) study. A phenomenological design was used to interview kindergarten-Grade 8 mainstream teachers in 3 charter schools. Interviews were conducted by a noninterested party due to the positionality status of the researcher. Interviews were transcribed, and the data analyzed and coded by the researcher. Teachers were asked about lived experiences with ELLs acquiring academic literacy, teachers’ challenges and benefits in teaching academic literacy, changes that occurred in classrooms in their work with helping ELLs to attain grade-level academic literacy, and how they could be best prepared to help ELLs attain academic literacy based on Cummins (1973) language acquisition theory.

Six themes emerged from the interviews relating teachers’ experiences with ELLs’ difficulty with mastering academic literacy in a charter school. The 6 themes that emerged included a large ELL percentage in the class, ELLs entering school behind grade level, cultural and language barriers, increased collaboration, greater emphasis on vocabulary, and increased professional development.

The study found that teachers perceived that the influx of ELLs into mainstream classrooms and culture and native languages posed challenges to students’ academic literacy achievement. Increased collaboration and a greater emphasis on teaching vocabulary proved to be helpful. The majority of teachers’ requests for professional development targeted teaching ELLs to prepare teachers better to help students attain academic literacy. The results of the 3 major findings in McCoy’s (2013) research study were supported as principles of good teaching pedagogy. Implications, limitations, reflections, and recommendations for future research are reported.